May 22, 2009

You could call the bill repealing DADT "The T.E. Lawrence Bill for More Effective Counterinsurgency Operations"

I served with Brian Hughes for a few years in the 1st Ranger Battalion. I never led him in either combat or training and thus cannot judge his performance as either a Ranger or team leader. I do recall, though, that he had dropped out of Yale in his penultimate semester to enlist in the Rangers -- which I thought was pretty cool -- and that the two of us had a great conversation over cigarettes one night in Afghanistan about Ludwig Wittgenstein and the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (which Brian had been working on for his senior thesis or something). Anyway, I can confirm two things:

  1. Brian is gay.
  2. The 75th Ranger Regiment somehow did not cease to be combat effective on account of Brian's homosexuality.

Brian read a post on this very blog about Don't Ask, Don't Tell and was moved to pen this op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. I do not know if the repeal of DADT is the most pressing issue facing our national security establishment. (I'm sure, in fact, that it is not.) But I do think it's an awfully stupid policy, and Brian makes some damn good arguments to that end:

Several of my colleagues knew I was gay. We lived in the closest possible conditions. When there were showers, we showered together. When we were out overnight on the cold, bare mountains of Afghanistan, we slept huddled together for warmth. It should go without saying that there was nothing remotely sexual about these situations. We had uncomfortable experiences -- we were at war, after all -- but my buddies were never uncomfortable with me.

The reason I didn't come out to more of my comrades wasn't out of concern for morale. I was worried about losing my job. ...

Straight and gay soldiers have been fighting side by side in Afghanistan, Iraq and beyond without incident. More than 20 of our closest allies have integrated gays into their ranks, including all of NATO except Turkey. American troops work and live with these forces without incident.

Here at home, every government service is integrated, including the paramilitary sections of the CIA that work hand in glove with the armed services. The presence of gays in these organizations is a nonissue. The idea that our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines would have any greater difficulty adjusting is an insult to their professionalism.

This bit at the end I find to be really compelling. In a combat environment in which U.S. soldiers are working alongside civilians -- not to mention the soldiers from allied nations -- in complex counterinsurgency operations, they are already working alongside persons living openly homosexual lives. So at what point are we just going to throw in the towel and admit, for better or for worse, that homosexuality has been normalized in Western culture?